‘A Storm of Swords’ will break hearts while engaging readers

Book_ReviewWarning: Review contains spoilers for the first two “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels

There should be a support group for fans of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” No human can possibly take the punishment Martin doles out to readers.

HBO’s adaptation of the series “Game of Thrones,” named after the first book in the series, kicked off its third season on Sunday, so TNL decided to review book three to see if the season was worth following.

Assuming the T.V. show follow the book, the series will be amazing, but the plot will rip out readers’ hearts and stomp on them a few times before they get through it.

A Storm of Swords” chronicles the events immediately after book two of “A Song and Ice and Fire,” as well as season two of “A Game of Thrones.” The story is told in third person with various point of view characters, and allows for a more intimate style of third-person narrative.

The basic plot of the series focuses on various groups vying for the Iron Throne of Westeros after the death of King Robert Baratheon. Westeros is part of a fictional world where seasons last for years rather than months. Winter is cause for fear and concern, especially in the northern regions, because of the extreme cold and the many deaths that occur from hunger and illness.

By the beginning of “A Storm of Swords,” the War of Five Kings has dwindled to four groups vying for control of Westeros, and dwindles further as the book continues.

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Daenerys Targaryen, exiled daughter of the king before Baratheon, led a rebellion and claimed the crown about 14 years before the start of the series. She is slowly amassing forces of her own to eventually return to Westeros and claim the Iron Throne usurped from her family’s 300-year dynasty. She also possesses three young dragons, previously believed to be extinct, which she cares after like her own children. She hopes they will eventually grow large enough to ride and be of use in asserting her claim to the throne.

The overall story focuses on politics and battle rather than magic, but the presence of magic increases with each book. But this doesn’t take away from the story. It instead adds a layer that becomes stronger over time. It isn’t the focus of the book series though, and that’s almost a relief. There’s so much going on already that too much magic might actually detract from it.

“A Storm of Swords” does a good job of carrying this trend.

It’s also good at holding to Martin’s need to kill characters. As made clear by book one, no character is safe. In fact, the safer and more prominent a character appears, the harder and more devastating his or her fall is. This trend even includes main characters.

Both “good” and “bad” characters (most of them have a level of moral ambiguity that leaves readers seriously questioning their overall character alignment) are constantly on the chopping block. While there’s a method to Martin’s madness, it’s impossible to predict whom it’s safe to emotionally invest in.

“A Storm of Swords” is possibly the worst book yet for this. Even if a character survives, they suffer somehow. All of them do and immensely. Martin is so good at pulling readers into the story that no reader leaves the book unscathed.

There’s also a decent level of humor to the book though. Tyrion Lannister is a phenomenal character to follow for a good laugh. He is witty and funny even in his unhappiest moments. A new character to this book, nicknamed the Queen of Thorns, is absolutely hilarious as well and might remind readers a little of Sophia from “The Golden Girls.”

Like Martin’s other books, especially the two that follow “A Storm of Swords,” the novel is exceptionally long. However, the rotating points of view don’t make it feel that way. There are slow spots, but they never last long enough to become a real burden. The book is so engaging that there are times when one can become completely immersed in it.

Because of the level of political intrigue and battle versus high fantasy elements, the book caters well to multiple crowds.

Book: “A Storm of Swords”

Author: George R. R. Martin

Release Date: Nov. 2000

Genre: Epic fantasy